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Commission Delays Report On Changes To Plattsburgh Charter

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Pat Bradley/WAMC
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Plattsburgh City Charter Commission meets on June 22, 2015

The Plattsburgh City Charter Commission has delayed issuing its final report on proposed changes to the document that guides city governance.

The charter commission was scheduled to issue its final report on changes to the charter Monday evening.  But the 12-member body agreed to delay the report until August and issue it at the same time ballot language for the changes will be released.
Chair Luke Cyphers said this plan makes more sense.  “Yes we blew our deadline.  I think we need to take a little more time. We do have a draft of this report.  But I think June 22nd was more aspirational probably than realistic. What has taken longer to develop than we thought was the actual ballot language and every section of the individual charters that people will be voting on. Those things are very detailed documents and there’s lots of both technical and little philosophical debates that have to be had. I think we’re getting closer with every meeting. But I don’t think we were ready for the unveiling of that report and it’s going to take a little while to get our ballot language together. I don’t think we should put out a report to the public without having the final ballot language.”
 
There was considerable discussion between commission members over what items must be inserted into the charter, including what services the city must provide or, as illustrated in this interchange between Theresa Bennett and Erin Hynes, what the duties of a city manager or mayor should be.   “We as a subcommittee never used the term ceremonial mayor and that’s not the way we envisioned it.”
Erin Hynes: “Theresa, were you anticipating that the mayor under your plan was going to be full time?”
Theresa Bennett:  “It’s a full time job here for mayor. And we talked about that with the idea of opening up the pool of people who would be able to do it. Those were all our reasoning behind why we wanted the city to move over to a city manager position.”
 
Commission Attorney John Clute notes the discussion illustrated the challenges the board faces in determining what needs to be changed in the antiquated charter.  “The document that we have now, the 120 year old charter, has a very brief description of for example what the powers of the mayor are. But it doesn’t go on to explain in any detail at all what the powers of a chief executive officer are in a municipal government. So really what this rewrite of the existing charter does is it attempts to define what that terms means. And in the process of doing that because there are certain anachronisms in the current charter and the actual practice of government in terms of how it’s been administered and how the mayor and the council interrelate differs greatly from the literal language of the city charter.”
 
The charter commission must still review language pertaining to mandated services, the wording of contracts for a city manager, whether specific attendance for council meetings should be specified in the charter and the role of mayor during emergencies under a city manager form of government.
 
A subcommittee to craft final ballot language will report by the first week in August.  The commission is targeting the third week in August to ratify the final report and ballot language.
 
 

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